17th May 2014
Farnham – Knockholt Pound, via the North Downs Way
50.8 miles – 1700m elevation
13hr30min cut off
Saturday was a hot day. Read any blog or race report from the 2014 NDW 50 and you will find that all mention the heat in some way. In fact it only reached 23c on the thermometer but it was the sustained heat over the day that seemed to sap that extra bit of energy you were hoping to use to power you up Box Hill and Reigate Hill. For me, the barren and completely exposed field just after Rockshaw Road took just a bit too much out of me…
Back to the beginning. I ran the NDW100 in August of last year and so was familiar with the start location in Farnham and the route. After an efficient check in and race brief by RD James Elson at St Polycarps Primary School, approximately 200 runners walked the short distance to the start of the NDW path. At 8am we were off and immediately it was clear that the day would be a warm one. I started virtually at the back of the field as I was determined to take the whole day easy. You would think that controlling your own actions is a basic human skill but I have found that when in a race, sometimes my head and body seem to have their own agenda and I almost have to trick them into sticking to plan! The route follows the North Downs Way path from Farnham, leaving it only for the last half a mile or so to take you into the village of Knockholt Pound. It is fairly undulating throughout, with a couple of short sharp climbs. The track is fairly sandy for the first section before moving to more woodland trail and eventually finishing with field tracks which were rock hard on Saturday but I imagine would be very muddy in heavy rain. Although a lot of people mention the two well known hills, for me it is all the other little inclines which are difficult. They straddle the border between walkable in a longer race but really runnable in a 50 and are hard to face at mile 45!
As expected, the aid stations were fantastic; well stocked and full of cheerful, helpful volunteers. I was also extremely lucky to have my boyfriend Kris and daughter Amy crewing for me. In between aid stations, I would turn a corner to suddenly find them set up on a picnic blanket with music playing and a little table laid out with salt, water and vegan carrot cake and soy cheese sandwiches for anyone to help themselves to. For the first time, I had decided to completely shun sports drinks, gels and any sweet food and only eat savoury foods with water and salt. I had a sip of coke every now and again at the aid stations and did make up one bladder of water with a nuun tab but other than that I stuck to ‘real’ food and it really suited me. (Having said that, I chowed down a veggie curry at mile 60 of the 100 last year so I think my tummy is more forgiving than some!)
The hill after Rockshaw Road; hot, hard and exhausting, would of really slowed me down as I had run out of salt and water but Kris managed to meet me at a road crossing by the top and I gulped down on some of my daughters favourite mandarin pieces (much to her horror!). My plan went well through to mile 39 and I actually really enjoyed just running the route with no expectations. Although I chatted to a few runners, I ran alone for much of the race. It actually made me realise how much of the route I had missed whilst talking previously so I enjoyed taking in the views and getting a good tan.
After the climb up Botley Hill to the last aid station, my legs began to protest and I slowed down considerably. I walked a fair amount with a runner I had met in Davos a few years previously, Mike, who was saving his legs for Comrades in a few weeks. Despite a rather slow few miles, we decided to run the final section where we could cruelly see the finish area but had to circumnavigate a field and road to make it there, finishing in 10hr40.
Centurion Running seem to have really tapped into what runners want and need from their races and are doing very well with their 50 and 100 mile race offerings. I really recommend them and hopefully I will be able to volunteer at an event soon as the volunteers really elevate these events to what they are.